Parklife @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne (02/10/2010)

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Arriving at Parklife early in the afternoon, there was already a sea of smiling faces that greeted me as I walked through the gate. Wisely, the Fuzzy crew had set up two big screens to accommodate the AFL fans, so even early in the day the Sidney Myer Music Bowl already had a festive atmosphere.

The first act I managed to catch was Sinden, who was DJing on the main stage (Sahara). If you have not seen Sinden DJ before, his style is like a hyper-kinetic version of Switch or Major Lazer. It was only about 2:30 in the afternoon, yet there were already several hundred punters going mad for it. Easy guys – there’s several hours left in the day yet! I liked that Sinden felt comfortable juggling between opposing styles, such as obscene bassline house to vocal piano house. A very playful and energetic set.

Next on the main stage were the Midnight Juggernauts. I found this to be an odd choice of act, right after such a high octane set by Sinden. Having said that, The Juggernauts delivered a quality set, as always. Keeping the audience entranced with their shimmering ELO-inspired melodies, standout tracks included their signature tune Shadows, and an inspired cover of _Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street.

Heading down to ‘The Cave’ stage next, I decided to catch Memory Tapes, a two-piece outfit from New Jersey, who have a sound that is very hard to define. This is the very thing that makes them so great. During their set they went from new wave inspired pop-rock to ending up somewhere near disco punk. A thoroughly enjoyable set and one of the highlights of the day.

Following Memory Tapes were Classixx, a DJ duo from Los Angeles. They played a very funky, retro-tinged set, consisting mainly of electro and indie-dance. Early on in the piece they dropped ‘Lucky Star’ by Madonna, quickly redeeming themselves by spinning Lindstrom’s remix of The Chemical Brothers’ Swoon.

Meanwhile, back at the main stage Soulwax were absolutely tearing the Music Bowl apart with their electro goodness. Years of touring together as a band have honed their sound into an extremely cohesive unit. The band was perfectly in time, and brought new meaning to their productions with each number they played. Slowly building each track to a peak, until the crowd could take it no longer, then they just let fly and the crowd went mental.

What really impressed me is that every beat and layer of synth was coming from the band itself – no backing tapes to be seen. Special mention has to be made of the fact that these guys were also the best-dressed act of the day. All four members of the band were decked in matching silver suits, complete with bow ties! Classy.

Next on the itinerary was Mixmaster Mike at the Kakadu stage. As I was rushing up a steep hill, I felt an almighty WHACK, and my leg gave way! I turned around only to see nothing there. Random. A helpful punter helped me up the rest of the way, but unfortunately my leg had pretty much been rendered pretty much useless for the rest of the evening. One hour, and a medic visit later, I had unfortunately missed the entirety of Mixmaster Mike’s DJ set. As quickly as humanly possibly, I then hobbled in what I am sure was an amusing fashion to the main stage to catch the one and only – Missy E.

Missy Elliott blazed onto stage, ripping through such classics as Get Ur Freak On, Rain and Work It. If you’re familiar with her work, you will remember that each of these tunes also had amazing film clips to accompany them. The Missy crew managed to encapsulate the spirit and fun of those video clips by coming out on stage with the same wardrobe and dance moves. I have to say, they did a flawless job as well.

After that things went a bit down hill, really. Missy seemed to be struggling to keep up the pace. In a bizarre move, 20 minutes into her set Missy went off stage, leaving us to watch to some unknown R&B singer to perform her new hit song. This left many members of the audience scratching their heads in confusion and disbelief.

By the time Missy E came back onto the stage, she had lost any momentum she had gained previously. Then she proceeded to perform an R&B medley, which included a karaoke version of the Black Eyed Peas hit I Gotta Feeling! Erm….perfect time to make an exit, to catch an act I had been waiting all day to see: New Young Pony Club. So off I hobbled again…

London’s New Young Pony Club were performing to a modestly-sized, but very appreciative, crowd on the Atoll stage. I only very recently got into NYPC, initially dismissing them as one of many hipster bands riding the crest of the 80’s revival wave. How wrong I was! They are a wonderful fusion of everything that was good about that decade. Think disco-era Blondie meets Luscious Jackson, via Gary Numan.

At any rate, all of these elements were in play on the Atoll stage, and everyone was having a boogie – myself included. Although when I say ‘boogie’, I mean more like bopping about on one leg, whilst leaning on a tree! It was hard to sit down when front woman Tahita was having so much fun herself. She owned the crowd from start to finish. Special mention needs to be made that the drummer was playing in high heels. Bad ass.

Finally back on the main stage, Groove Armada were closing out the night. I was a little underwhelmed by the overdone performance, to be honest. Having said that, who am I to argue with several thousand people who were going absolutely mad for it? You could not argue with the spectacular laser and light show the accompanied it either.

When Groove Armada came back to perform Superstylin’ at the end of the night the crowd went mental, and they somehow made it all right again. Ultimately I believe that the change of venue from Birrarung Marr to the Music Bowl slightly detracted from the unique feel that made Parklife stand out from the many other festivals on offer. That aside – and despite the gammy leg – it was a great day all round. Parklife was a melting pot of musical styles and personalities – most of them very friendly and up for it!

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